On Friday, August 31st, The Dymaxion Quartet was featured on WKCR, Columbia University radio playing an hour's worth of previously unrecorded music. Wanna listen? All the tracks are archived here (or they will be soon, at least). Some of this choice material includes an interpretation of W.B. Yeats, some adolescent Shakespearean drama, speaking in wooden tongues, and music in Pig-Latin.
...supporting my theory that most cool people are hip to Bucky Fuller. Or perhaps that most people who are hip to Bucky Fuller are also cool.
From an NPR interview with Tom Waits:
Q: Favorite Bucky Fuller quote?
A: "Fire is the sun unwinding itself from the wood."
I’ve recently been reading a “translation” of Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetics. It’s basically about how Mother Nature uses geometry. These sorts of polyhedrons are all over the place in that book (and in nature).
What’s so cool about this installation is that it shows how two completely different shapes can be created from the exact same materials… namely a specific number of sticks that are all the same length. Think about that for a while and it starts to feel like more than a fascinating coincidence.
What does this have to do with music? A fair amount, actually. But I’ll get into that another time.
dodecaherdon=icosaherdon (by Lorenz Lachauer)
Here’s a great little radio story on an overgrown and defunct geodesic dome in Cape Cod that used to house local zither music.
Sounds like the perfect venue for the next Dymaxion Quartet concert!
Thanks to Jason Crane for the link.
The Way is a new composition, about 60 minutes long, made up of 13 books from the Tao te Jing. This is a selection of three books from a July 2011 performance in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
For a number of years I’ve had this idea in my head… that Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Jing by Lao Tzu is incredibly musical.
Music is motion and what provides that motion is some kind of back and forth… a struggle between ideas, a call and response, high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow, and on and on and on. The Tao Te Jing is full of this. It is repetition and variation as its most sublime. And the rhythms of Mitchell’s phrasing have a song all their own.
And so I have endeavored to capture this song and give it my own structure. After many months of writing (and rewriting) and a pinch of rehearsal time, TDQ is thrilled to give the first public performance of our newest work, The Way.
I have selected 13 of the 81 books from the Tao Te Jing, set them to music, removed the words, added improvisation, and strung them together into one continuous suite that will probably clock in at around 60 minutes.
That’s a lot of music without a break, so I’ve been considering how the typical audience/performer relationship might need to change a bit. To make things a bit more interactive, I’ve created a map of the piece that the audience can use to follow along. It’s a bit like a guessing game of where exactly are we in the piece, with some clues given as to what to listen for. Sort of a sonic scavenger hunt or Where’s Waldo set to music.
It also provides some more meaningful context to the piece. An hour’s worth of notes and tones can really wear you down without a story line. It illuminates the ideas behind the music so you, the listener, can hear what we think “being and non-being” sounds like, for instance. And those with a theoretical inclination will get to theorize a bit about the symetry of the overall structure of the piece and how that may or may not relate to the relentless refrences to duality and balance throughout the text.
Mostly, though, it should be a good time with some good friends. We’re utterly delighted to share this newest and intensely personal piece with you. We hope you can make it.
Show is Friday, July 29th at 8:00 at Launchpad in Brooklyn. See you there.
“Among the unjustly underappreciated jazz records of 2010 was Sympathetic Vibrations, by a band called the Dymaxion Quartet.”
We’re honored to have hit the radar of NPR’s A Blog Supreme, arguably the central hub of the jazz blogosphere. And equally honored to share some web space with Darcy James Argue (who also shares our tenor player).
Josh Jackson runs a radio show for WBGO in Newark called The Checkout. Every week he interviews prominent jazz musicians about their latest projects, and at the end of the interview he asks each of them the same question… “What does it mean to live with music?”
Quite simply, to live with music is to see the world through another lens.
Consider for a moment that words and language are the tools of thought. They are the manifestation of our ideas, and when we speak of things, we speak of them as they are represented within our minds.
For instance, the French do not drink red wine. They drink wine-red. In French the adjective follows the noun, not the other way around like in English. Consider how this subtly changes the relation of those two concepts in the mind of the French speaker, and thus subtly changes their idea of red wine, or wine in general.
In China, no one gives a clock as a birthday gift because the word for “clock” is pronounced the same as the word “to end”. So giving a clock as a birthday gift would be like wishing someone that their birthdays would end… bad gift. So simply because of the language itself, those two concepts are linked in the mind of the Chinese speaker in a way that doesn’t exist to the French or English speaker.
Now consider the notion that music is a language. That means that understanding music gives you a new set of tools for understanding the world. Speaking the language of music gives you a new way of relating different ideas, of translating concepts, of perceiving your environment and communicating with others. It allows you to understand the world in a deeper, more profound way than you had before.
To live with music is to live a richer, more vibrant, more meaningful life.
Courtesy of Jazz Times:
A couple weeks ago I went to see a benefit concert in Greenwich Village to support the Kickstarter project of Search & Restore, a Brooklyn-based non-profit jazz promoter. It was a worthy project: videotape 200 live performances throughout the city in 2011 to help spread the word about the exciting contemporary NYC jazz scene. I was happy to spend the money on a ticket and support their endeavor (now successfully funded) but was more so spending my money to hear the fascinating show they had put together.
The program was a two-hour, non-stop, round robin improvisation by 20 top-name musicians in the NYC jazz and improv scene. It worked like this: Musician A starts to improvise. 5 minutes later Musician B joins musician A. 5 minutes later Musician A is replaced by Musician C. 5 minutes later Musician B is replaced by Musician D. And on and on, each musician playing two 5-minute duets with two different musicians.
This was brilliant on many levels. First of all, it’s different and that alone is intriguing. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a round robin duet show, let alone one of 20 high-caliber improvisors. So the curiosity factor was high.
Also, getting 20 high-quality musicians to agree to commit their evening and only play for 10 minutes is a logistical challenge and not very economically appealing. So I was impressed by the mere fact that they pulled it off at all, which also drew me out to see what the vibe would be like.
To watch this passing parade of musical perspectives was totally engaging. With each new duet the sonic narrative shifted and evolved as the different personalities came and went. Like the drama of a great sporting event, anything could happen next and no one had a clue what it might be.
I’d love to see round-robin’s like this, with their genuine sense of spontaneity and engagement, become the new “jam sessions”, many of which have become little more than musical day care, replete with sign-up sheets and chaperones. I could see it developing into different types of after-hours improv games with slight changes to the bare bones rules. For example, each duet must alter between rhythmic and arhythmic, or between intense and relaxed.
Aside from the musical merits, it was a brilliant promotional technique. First, seeing twenty great musicians for only 30 dollars subconsciously lowers incremental costs, i.e. divide 30 by 20 and you just heard Christian McBride live for only $1.33. Now that’s a deal!
Plus, each musician is going to have their own draw. Instead of a one or two band show that pulls from only one or two fan bases, you leverage 20 fan bases. And the place was full, so it seemed to work.
Of course, the S&R crew are tireless and schooled promotors so they had their basics covered as well. But I don’t think that diminishes the impact of the creative techniques described above.
So my question is this... was this a promotional stunt that happened to work out musically, or was it a great musical idea that happened bolster promotion?
Whatever your answer, I want to see more of this. In a world of ubiquitous, on-demand access to passive content (e.g. iPod, Pandora, YouTube, etc.) live shows need to be more than “a CD played by people in front of you”.
For my money, I want to experience something that I can’t get on iTunes. I want to tear that 4th wall down and participate. I want to be surprised and delighted and caught off gaurd. I want to be part of something, not just a “member of the audience”.
Call it what you will... savvy marketing with soul, innovation with honest intentions, whatever. But it feels like the new news. It feels like what needs to happen to keep live music, well, alive.
And I’m watching with great anticipation as the need for innovative promotion further molds the boundaries of the art being promoted, working together in un-ironic symbiosis.
The Dymaxion Quartet is trying our hand at this “genuine ingenuity” on Thursday at Caffe Vivaldi in the Village. We’re putting on our Choose-Your-Own-Adventure show which, like the books you might have read as a kid, lets you, the listener, determine your fate by choosing the set list throughout the show. We pass out musical menus of our entire songbook and you get to select various starters, entrees, and dessert items, with the possibility of a chef’s special thrown in here or there. It is only marginally democratic, but entirely fun.
So I’m curious, what other innovative musical performances have you seen that were (at least plausibly) borne out of promotional need?